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4 Techniques to Build Rapport with the Interviewer to Ace Your Next Job Interview

By Don Goodman

You have a great resume, you passed the phone screening and now have an interview with the decision maker. But there are five equally qualified people interviewing for the same job you want. How do you distinguish yourself?

Simple: people hire people they like so your job in an interview is to get them to like you.

Of course you need to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to get the job done, but it is just as important to show that you fit into the corporate culture and would be a welcome member to the team.

You do this by building rapport with the interviewer. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Know the Company and Your Interviewer

When I was interviewing people the first question I would ask is “What do you know about us?”

Their response would often either immediately eliminate them or increase their ranking as a candidate.

Those who obviously did not know much got low marks.

Those who followed us on Twitter, checked out our recent press releases, and saw LinkedIn discussions got high marks.

And for sales people, if they mystery shopped us, then I was extremely impressed.

Also look up your interviewer on LinkedIn so you can see their background including how long they have been there, where they were before and so on. I know one fellow who was offered a job that same day because he noticed that the interviewer had a military background, and he stressed his own positive military experience.

[MORE: 5 Things You MUST Do Before a Job Interview and Pre-Interview Preparation.]

2. Create a Conversation

Did you know that the words you use account for only 10% of the effectiveness of our communications? That means that your intonation and body language are the other 90%. They are the key to establishing rapport and getting your point across.

Regarding intonation your goal in establishing rapport is to move from an interview into a two-way conversation. That means that your answers should be casual, conversational and demonstrate some enthusiasm.

For example, when asked “Tell me about your position at IBM?” here are two ways to respond:

A. At IBM I was responsible for selling enterprise-level SaaS and cloud-based marketing solutions to Fortune 500 accounts.


B. Now that was a challenging job! IBM launched some new SaaS and cloud-based marketing solutions and it was my job to penetrate Fortune 500 accounts and get them to select us over already entrenched competition. That meant that I had to get the notice of key executives and decision makers and give them a reason to consider us when they were not exactly having problems with their current solution.”

Which of these do you think is more engaging?

3. Leverage Positive Body Language

It goes without saying that we all react to body language so you need to make this work for you in the interview.

Your body language generally includes your eye contact, posture, hand gestures and facial expressions.

  • Start by making sure you have a good handshake as this is a crucial first impression. Everyone knows that a limp handshake is a turnoff. Women tend to overcompensate and shake hands too firmly. So, practice your handshake on your family members.
  • Eye contact is crucial to building a connection with the interviewer. It is especially important at the time of the handshake and when the interviewer is speaking or asking a question. By giving eye contact, it communicates that you are listening and engaged.
  • Regarding the rest of your body language, you should try a technique called mirroring.

    Mirroring is where you watch the other person’s body language and somewhat mimic it. Look at their body posture, which may include sitting upright, leaning forward, and placing hands on the table. If they are sitting in a casual manner, then you should too. If they use hand gestures, you should as well. Look for head gestures such as a nod or tilt of the head and respond accordingly.

    You should also try to mimic their pace of speech, tone and volume, and use some of the same words they use.

We aren't normally aware of our own body language, but the impact is enormous.

4. Ask Questions

To build rapport you need to transition the traditional question and answer interview into a conversation. You do this by asking questions and engaging the interviewer.

I coached a fellow at Intel who had lots of interviews, but zero call backs. He had great technical skills, but was as interesting as a memory chip and in our mock interview, I would ask a question, he would answer, and wait patiently for the next question. After I demonstrated some rapport-building techniques, stressing the importance of engaging the interviewer, he went on to have three offers in the next five weeks.

Look for the employer's "pain."

Note that the MOST important question for you to ask is “What is the biggest challenge that someone would face in this job in the first 6 months?”

This is a sales technique to "uncover the pain" and it lets you easily get into a discussion. Pay close attention to the interviewer’s answer as it will tell you exactly what they are looking for. Then simply focus your responses on the skills and achievements you have produced that would give them the confidence that you can meet this challenge. Asking this important question is crucial to distinguishing yourself.

Follow your answers with related questions.

For example, when asked “What is one of the biggest challenges you faced in your current role?” a good way to respond is something like this:

“When I joined the organization I discovered that there was a loss of confidence with customers in our services and a fair number of tarnished relationships. So I went out of my way to meet them personally, listen to their concerns and show them a clear plan with dates for any outstanding items”.

Good answer, but now you have to use this opportunity to engage the interviewer and do this by simply asking:

“How would you rate your relationships with customers here?”

[MORE: Answering: Do You Have Any Questions? ]

Bottom Line

Using these techniques will give you a definite edge in your job search.

About the author...

Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program,

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